Browns fire coach Pat Shurmur, GM Tom Heckert

Before the ball dropped on a new year, the Browns said goodbye

to another coach.

The same thing happened after seasons in 2000, 2004, 2008 and

2010.

One day after another dismal, double-digit loss season ended,

the Browns fired coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert, the initial

offseason moves by new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner, who

intend to put a stop to the franchise’s never-ending cycle of

change. The Browns’ next coach will be their sixth since 1999.

”We’re well aware that this has been a carousel,” said Haslam.

”It’s our job to find the right coach and the right GM and bring

stability long term for the organization. That’s our role. Our goal

is to get the best person.”

Haslam was matter of fact when asked what attribute he was

looking for in a coach.

”Strong leadership,” he said.

Shurmur went 9-23 in his two seasons with the Browns, who were

still in the playoff mix before closing the season with three

straight losses to finish 5-11. Shurmur, who followed Eric Mangini

into Cleveland, developed one of the NFL’s youngest rosters this

season despite an undercurrent of change.

His first season was made more difficult by the lockout,

preventing him from learning about his players. The bottom line,

though, is that he didn’t win enough.

”I’ve never seen a coach with that much on his plate in two

years,” linebacker Scott Fujita said. ”To handle it the way he

did and to manage it day-to-day the way he did and to not let the

distractions from outside come in and infiltrate the locker room,

you couldn’t have asked for more out of him.”

Haslam said the decisions to dismiss Shurmur and Heckert were

finalized in the ”last week or two.” It’s expected both men will

quickly find jobs with another teams, and it’s possible they could

be reunited with coach Andy Reid, who was fired Monday in

Philadelphia. The trio worked together with the Eagles.

Haslam and Banner will immediately begin their coaching

search.

During a 35-minute news conference that turned into a sales

pitch for a new coach, they did not disclose any potential

candidates. However, Banner is confident the Browns, who have lost

at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons – the

second-longest streak of futility in league history – will land a

quality coach.

”Most of these coaches are focused on finding a place where

they think they can win,” Banner said. ”We think we can make a

very good case why this is the best opportunity in the league right

now.”

Already, the list of possible candidates to take over for

Shurmur includes Alabama’s Nick Saban and Oregon’s Chip Kelly,

college football’s two hottest coaches who both have bowl games

ahead. One of them could be lured to Cleveland with the promise of

having complete control of the roster.

Saban worked as an assistant in Cleveland under Bill Belichick

in the `90s, and although many believe he’ll retire at Alabama,

that doesn’t mean Haslam won’t try to hire him.

”I would love for him to be here, but I doubt if he would come

to the NFL and leave Alabama,” said rookie running back Trent

Richardson, who played for Saban with the Crimson Tide. ”I can’t

see him leaving.”

Kelly’s up-tempo offense is intriguing to the Browns. With

Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Josh

Gordon, they have a young nucleus to build around.

Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, who served as New England’s offensive

coordinator before taking over in Happy Valley, is also believed to

be on the Browns’ short list.

There is also reported interest in several NFL coordinators

including Indianapolis’ Bruce Arians, New England’s Josh McDaniels,

Denver’s Mike McCoy and Washington’s Kyle Shanahan,

Fox Sports reported Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter

will interview with the Browns this week.

Haslam promised a thorough search.

”We’re going to explore all avenues, college coaches,

coordinators and head coaches,” he said. ”The key is to get the

right person.”

Among the GM candidates expected to be considered are: Atlanta

player personnel director David Caldwell, San Francisco director of

player personnel Tom Gamble, Baltimore assistant GM Eric DeCosta

and NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi, who worked with Banner in

Philadelphia and for the Browns when Belichick was Cleveland’s

coach.

Banner said it’s possible the Browns would hire a player

personnel director, not necessarily a GM.

Shurmur, who has two years left on his contract, was emotional

when addressing the Browns for the final time.

”It’s unfortunate, very unfortunate,” Weeden said of the

changes. ”When you don’t win games, it’s not on Pat, it’s not on

Mr. Heckert, it’s all on us and we all feel a sense of

responsibility.”

Following Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh, Shurmur said he had not

spoken to Haslam or Banner in ”quite some time,” a clear sign the

team was moving on without him.

Shurmur was not available for comment. Not long after leaving

the team’s facility, he attended a movie at a cinema complex with

his family.

He departed the Browns with some satisfaction.

”I am extremely proud of the players on this team, who I felt

made tremendous strides and helped to make the Cleveland Browns

relevant again,” Shurmur said in a release. ”This group of

players will achieve success soon, and there will be a part of me

that will feel very good when that happens.”

Shurmur’s fate may have been sealed on the first day of training

camp when Haslam’s intent to buy the Browns was announced. It may

not have mattered how Shurmur did this season because Haslam, a

former minority owner with the Steelers, was intent on bringing in

his own people.

He wants to find his first coach ”sooner than later,” but he’s

willing to wait.

”Whatever timetable it takes to get the right person,” he

said. ”We’re going to take.”

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